In the end Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) only managed to take back a slender seven seconds on the group of favourites that includes Giro d’Italia leader Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) but the sight of the veteran rider and his young apprentice Giulio Ciccone attacking on the final climb of stage 12 will have given the Trek-Segafredo squad a welcome morale boost after a bruising encounter the day before.
While Andrea Vendrame (AG2R Citroën Team) was up the road winning the stage from Siena to Bagno di Romagna from a breakaway, it looked as though the overall contenders were content to keep their powder dry for another day. Step forward Ciccone, who attacked from the maglia rosa group on the final climb of the stage. Nibali was quickly on the attack too and the duo linked up and forced Ineos Grenadiers to burn through their domestiques before the Trek pair were finally caught prior the summit.
"We tried. There was room for an attempt on the final climb, even though we knew they wouldn't leave us to go too far. In the meeting this morning we had discussed it: if the opportunity presented itself, why not try,” Nibali mused at the end of the stage.
The two-time Giro winner attacked on the descent and his second acceleration forced Gianni Moscon into a mistake that left the Ineos Grenadiers rider on the tarmac after he misjudged a corner during his attempt at following one of the best descenders of his generation.
On the flat run-in to the line, Nibali held a slim advantage that gained him seven seconds. He still sits 4:04 off Bernal’s lead but his drive to try and seek opportunities demonstrated that, although the veteran is most likely out of the running for the maglia rosa, he could still have an important part to play in deciding its outcome.
“The descent wasn't pretty risky, so I preferred to take it in front,” he added.
Trek-Segafredo boss Luca Guercilena gave an insight into Nibali’s tactics and indicated that despite the rider’s injury-hit preparation, he still has the motivation and intent to attack at any opportunity.
“It was an attempt more driven by instinct and Vincenzo's desire to leave a mark in this Giro,” Guercilena said.
“We had set ourselves the goal in this stage to take advantage of the opportunities that could arise to be protagonists. [Gianluca] Brambilla was generous in the breakaway, Nibali and Ciccone wanted to try. It was also a way to test ourselves after yesterday's bad day and in view of the next important stages.”
Ciccone remains in eighth overall at 2:24 with stage 13 to Verona set to be decided by the sprinters ahead of Saturday’s all-important stage to the top of Monte Zoncolan.
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